Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Is it "life"?



Definition '1' of the Oxford dictionary defines "life" as:



"the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth and functional activity." [http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/life?view=uk]


In order for life to be created, existing organic elements must be present and of course must be compatible in order to produce an offspring. A new creation will not manifest unless the conditions for creation are met. In the case of creation, a single male sperm must penetrate the outer-most membrane of the ovum in order for fertilisation to occur. The sperm and the ovum are organic living matter, and thus newly created organic matter is the product of this fusion: the zygote.


Cellular divisions begin almost immediately after conception has taken place; life, in its simplest definition, has begun and continues during the nine-month gestation period and will continue until natural death. There is no denying that even in womb in the very earlier stages of human development, there is life, thus artificial termination of the unborn inside the womb, by definition, is the termination of life.


But is it "human"?


Philosophers have argued endlessly on when the growing child inside the womb in considered to be "human". After all, what we consider to be human is two arms, two legs, two eyes, hair, eyebrows, fingers, finger-nails, etc., i.e. something that "resembles" a human being. We are not, however, conceived this way, that is when conception takes place, distinguishing human features are not present, at least not yet.


Even pro-choicers and pro-abortionists agree that in order for human conception to take place, one human male sperm and one human female ovum is required for fertilisation where, as afore-mentioned, life begins and the life is in its very early stages of human development. The zygote is a human zygote; the embryo is a human embryo; the fetus is a human fetus. There is no denying that the abortion of a child at ANY stage of its development inside the womb is the destruction of human life.


The law (the courts) will say that the human zygote, embryo and fetus (any stage of human development) is not legally human, at least not until birth, but let's keep in mind that legally and by law slavery was [in the past] acceptable; that in some parts of the world polygamy is acceptable; in some parts of the world it is illegal to sleep naked; in some parts of the world bestiality is legal; and right here in Australia children, while they are not allowed to purchase cigarettes, they can smoke them. What's the point? Well sometimes, actually, MOST of the time, the law does not make sense, or at least it is driven by someone's or a party's agenda, i.e.the law may be designed to discriminate or benefit.


So what makes it okay to take human life while it is still developing inside the womb or even weeks away from natural birth? What's the excuse? Is it now the concept of "personhood"? Definition '1' of the Oxford dictionary defines "Person" as:


"a human being regarded as an individual." [http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/person?view=uk]


Is it a human "being"? Yes it is! The zygote, embryo and fetus are all states of being human, i.e. stage of human development. By merely existing, a child inside the womb is demonstrating the human state at any given time. In other words, this is what a human looks like inside the womb in the first week, first month, first trimester, second trimester, 30th week, etc. It is certainly a human being, no matter what stage of development it's in. Being human is more than just having two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears, etc. Don't forget that science can determine species by examining any part of its tissue or bodily fluids. If a chimpanzee and a human being were victims in an obliterating explosion, scientists could determine species by examining tissue or fluid samples and distinguish one from the other because of basic genetic differences.


When does a human become a person? Is it when the human can express individuality in a given manner? While a zygote, embryo or fetus cannot express individuality, tangibly, for example like uttering its name, where it lives, what it does for a living, or showing what colour eyes it has, hair it has, like we all can do, scientifically it is already an individual. Already, biologically, the newly created life is unlike any other conceived before or after it, even in the case of identical (monozygotic) twins, although differences between monozygotic twins manifest depending on when egg division takes place (more intricate DNA studies can determine very subtle differences in DNA and genome structure - http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=identical-twins-genes-are-not-identical). A couple of distinguishing differences in monozygotic twins is their finger prints which begin to form roughly eight weeks in to gestation, and the pattern in which their taste buds take form (no taste bud "arrangement" between people is alike).


In conclusion:


Yes, it is life;
Yes, it is human;
Yes, by definition it is a person in that individuality has already manifested, even at conception - it is a unique and distinguishable creation;
Yes, abortion is the destruction of an innocent life.


We can only hope, as alluded to earlier, that the courts and legislative councils world-wide will come to their senses and recognise that humanhood begins at conception, and that just as killing a child outside the womb is considered murder, as is terminating the life during gestation. Making abortions "lawful" does not make it right.


It's time to provide life-giving alternatives to abortion, and the first step is education! Everyone needs to be aware of the miracle and scientific wonder that takes place at conception and that should end at natural death.

* * * * *
For information on what the Catholic Church teaches on the issue of abortion, then please visit the following sites (recommended reading):

http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c2a5.htm - Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 2270 to 2275).
http://www.catholic.com/library/Abortion.asp - Scriptural and doctrinal pro-life arguments.
http://www.lifesitenews.com/fetaldevelopment/ - Information on fetal development.
http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2006/0609uan.asp - The principle of Double Effect.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The significance of the "Keys to the Kingdom" (Matthew 16:19)

The verse of scripture that will shock the nerve of the anti-Catholic's brain, no doubt, is the use of Matthew 16:18-19 when used in defence of the establishment of the Catholic Church and the primacy of St. Peter, the first pope. This is what Matthew 16:18-19 says:


"And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven."


It's verse 19 that I want to pay particular attention to in this blog entry, however, namely because there is a significance behind the handing on of the "keys to the kingdom", and for Peter the responsibility being the key bearer entails. Let's explore the significance in layman's terms first.


When someone is given the "keys to the city" (traditionally an American custom) in contemporary times, it is because they have done something to earn them, i.e. they are awarded the keys to the city in recognition of some sort of achievement or accomplishment. It's not uncommon today for olympic athletes, humanitarians, civil servants, etc., to receive the keys to the city. In medieval times when when walled cities were guarded during the day and locked at night, key bearers could enter and leave the city as they pleased as trusted friends of city residents.


In more simpler terms, let's say I go away for a while and I need someone to look after my house while I'm gone, I'm going to give my house keys to someone I trust without reservation, right? My house holds my treasures and while I'm not physically present, I would the "best person for the job" to be my key bearer. I might even trust the person enough to have a house key cut for them so that they may enter my home any time if they so desire. A person entrusted with a key to another person's home, obviously, must be responsible and must not abuse this priveledge, much like in the case of the key bearer in medieval times.


The key bearer's role was authoritative as the honour of being the key bearer brought with it culpability.

And now, the scriptural significance of the "keys to the kingdom".

In Isaiah chapter 22, the prophet (Isaiah) laments the devastation of Judah. He foretells the deprivation of Sobna ("Shebna" in other translations), and the substitution of Eliacim ("Eliakim" in other translations) as steward of the kingdom:

"And I will drive thee out From thy station, and depose thee from thy ministry. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliacim the son of Helcias, And I will clothe him with thy robe, and will strengthen him with thy girdle, and will give thy power into his hand: and he shall be as a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Juda. And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut, and none shall open." - Isaiah 22:19-22 (D-R)

Broken down, verse by verse (http://www.scripturecatholic.com/the_church.html#the_church-III; John Salza, 2001-2007):

Isaiah 22:19 - Shebna is described as having an "office" and a "station." An office, in order for it to be an office, has successors. In order for an earthly kingdom to last, a succession of representatives is required. This was the case in the Old Covenant kingdom, and it is the case in the New Covenant kingdom which fulfills the Old Covenant. Jesus our King is in heaven, but He has appointed a chief steward over His household with a plan for a succession of representatives.


Isaiah 22:20 - In the old Davidic kingdom, Eliakim succeeds Shebna as the chief steward of the household of God. The kingdom employs a mechanism of dynastic succession. King David was dead for centuries, but his kingdom is preserved through a succession of representatives.


Isaiah 22:21 - Eliakim is called “father” or “papa” of God's people. The word Pope used by Catholics to describe the chief steward of the earthly kingdom simply means papa or father in Italian. This is why Catholics call the leader of the Church "Pope." The Pope is the father of God's people, the chief steward of the earthly kingdom and Christ's representative on earth.



Isaiah 22:22 - we see that the keys of the kingdom pass from Shebna to Eliakim. Thus, the keys are used not only as a symbol of authority, but also to facilitate succession. The keys of Christ's kingdom have passed from Peter to Linus all the way to our current Pope with an unbroken lineage for almost 2,000 years.

St. Peter, in Matthew 16:18-19 was named, under the authority of Christ the Lord himself, steward of the seat of the earthly kingdom of heaven, what would be the visible sign to the world that Christ dwells with us still and that his message is to be heard by and disciples made of all nations and that all may be baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

Many anti-Catholics will argue that St. Peter is not the foundation of the church, but Christ is. This is an argument of semantics: Christ is the foundation of Christendom; Christianity. St. Peter, however, as it tells us quite clearly in Matthew 16:18, is the foundation, the rock, on which Christ builds his church!

Think of it this way: Jesus is the project manager, and St. Peter is the contractor. Jesus gives St. Peter the authority to build ("And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven", Matthew 16:19) and St. Peter and the disciples are given instructions (Matthew 28:19-20) and guidance (John 14:23-29) to expand their developments throughout the world ("...called 'Catholic' because it extends over all the world, from one end of the earth to the other" - Cyril of Jerusalem, 315-386AD).

Elucidation:

The key symbolises trust and authority, ergo, the keys to the kingdom of heaven are given to one that is most trusted, a "first among firsts", a most loyal and stable character, and this character is given binding authority.

There is no authority greater than that given by the Lord Jesus Christ, and for almost 2000 years the key has been passed on from one pope to the other, starting with St. Peter and now sitting with Pope Benedict XVI. This is why the Vatican's own flag has a set of keys on its canvas:



The Church on which the successor of St. Peter sits, to this day carries out the instructions given by Christ and will do so until the day of Christ's return. The Church remains a light to the world (Matthew 5:14), giving witness to the good news that Christ and the heavenly Father desires for all men (sic.) to hear and allowing his Holy Spirit to work in each of us, so that the heavenly kingdom may be filled with souls filled with love for God, made possible with the price His Son paid for us and our salvation.

"That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." - John 17:21

Sunday, October 18, 2009

From Daniel to Matthew: Prophecy fulfilled and ever fulfilling!

I'm still a complete and utter newbie when it comes to Biblical prochecy and attaining a full understanding of how the Old Testament contrasts to the New Testament, but a friend of mine asked me a question about the prophecies in Daniel (namely in contrast to John's Revelation), and not knowing a great deal about them I began to read through the book and I came across this particular verse:


"But in the days of those kingdoms the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, and his kingdom shall not be delivered up to another people, and it shall break in pieces, and shall consume all these kingdoms, and itself shall stand for ever." - Daniel 2:44 (D-R)


Now, I know the New Testament a lot better than the Old Testament (yes, this is something I'm hoping to change; I'd like to know both testaments as well as I do just one), and it made me think, "Where have I seen this before?" because I had definitely read something similar in the New Testament. That's when I turned to Matthew:


"And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven." - Matthew 16:18-19 (D-R)


Hmmm...


"... a kingdom that shall never be destroyed... and itself shall stand for ever." - Daniel 2:44


"... and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." - Matthew 16:18


Could I be reading too much into it? Possibly! But I've tried to read it with other sets of eyes (figuratively speaking) and played devil's advocate with it, and I can't seem to untie the connection here. But then again it may not be for me to untie! Could another parallel be drawn like this one? Could another even be convoluted?


In my next blog entry I'll be writing on the significance of Peter being handed the "keys of the kingdom" by Christ, but this Daniel to Matthew parallel blew my mind!

Until then,

Pax vobiscum
(Peace be with you).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another Quick Thought: Catholics, the Communion of Saints, and "Necromancy"...

Stoning of St. Stephen (http://www.saintstephenssherman.org/)

This is an extract of a private message I sent to a fellow Youtube user, an "ex"-Catholic, that claimed that prayers to the saints (e.g. St. Anthony, St. Jerome, St. Joseph, St. Anne, etc.), apart from being idolatry (that topic I covered a couple of blog entries ago), was necromancy, the "conjuration of the spirits of the dead for purposes of magically revealing the future or influencing the course of events" (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/necromancy) and thus in breach of the Commandments. This Youtube user referred me to a part of the Old Testament where this takes place and why it is forbidden. I went on to explain why praying to (i.e praying through the saints) is acceptable.


In the Old Testament; NECROMANCY is forbidden, i.e. conjuring the dead to commune or attempt dialogue with the deceased. The Lord, in 1 Samuel 28:3-25, abandons King Saul (in disguise) because he has consulted the witch of Endor to commune with the prophet Samuel. God was angry at at King Saul because he failed to wait upon the Lord as God told him to. Now, when Catholics pray to the saints, we're not actually attempting dialogue with them or expecting them to speak back; we're simply asking them to pray for us because they are close to God; they intercede for us; all supplications are put to God.



In light of that: in Mark 15:34-36, as Jesus is hanging on the crucifix, he cries out to God, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which is translated to, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" but the bystanders mishear what Jesus uttered and believed he was crying out to Elijah:


"One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink, saying, 'Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.'" (v36)


Don't you think it's strange, based on what they [mistakenly] heard, that instead of condemning Jesus for attempting to "commune with the dead" by calling out to Elijah, they waited to see if Elijah would actually come and take him down from the cross? Yes, Jesus calls out to his Father, but the bystanders don't hear it that way. Why didn't the bystanders rebuke Jesus for the sin of necromancy if he was calling out to a "dead guy"?


The Youtube user then attempted to make his case with 1 Timothy 2:5, which says this:


"For there is one God, and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus..."


This is all well and good, but Jesus is the "one mediator of God and men" for our Salvation (redemption), and let's not forget what is said in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 right before this brief discourse on Christ as our mediator for Salvation:


"I desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men: For kings, and for all that are in high station: that we may lead a quiet and a peaceable life in all piety and chastity. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth."


Paul, in his letter to Timothy, is actually instructing us to pray for one another so that we may be led to God who wants all men to be saved and "come to knowledge of the truth".


Now, you could argue that Paul is exhorting the living to pray for each other, but as the saints in Heaven are no longer bound by the weight of sin as men are on earth (Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:8), and if the heavenly are aware of the affairs of men (sic.) on earth (Luke 15:10), wouldn't it actually be better for us to ask the saints to intercede for us rather than asking the earthly, those that are in as much need of Salvation as we are?


Ultimately, all prayers are directed to and are answered by God, but this does not mean we cannot have others praying (interceding) for us. If I were to ask you right now to pray for me, would you then be interfering or standing in between myself and God? Don't you then become a mediator? No, certainly not, because I wouldn't come to you to be "saved" (to seek Salvation), but I could come to you to ask you to pray for me as James 5:16 instructs:



"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."


Asking the righteous to pray for us is actually supported in the Old Testament as well:


"The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked,

but the prayer of the upright pleases him." - Proverbs 15:8


"The LORD is far from the wicked
but he hears the prayer of the righteous." - Provers 15:29


* * * * *


For more information about saints and why they are important to Catholics, then I recommend visiting the following websites to learn more:


http://www.catholic.org/saints/faq.php
http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0004.html
http://www.scripturecatholic.com/saints.html
http://www.catholic.com/library/Intercession_of_the_Saints.asp


God bless.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Debunking another anti-Catholic myth: Catholics and idolatry/graven images



A friend of mine asked for some advice the other night. Apparently he was dealing with a fundamentalist that made some strange claims about the Catholic Church and how we've supposedly change the 10 Commandments (the first commandment specifically) to justify using statues, idols and images in our prayers and so forth. The claim also stemmed to how we, Catholics, can also justify praying to saints. Here's how I responded:

The way the 10 commandments are divided in the Catholic tradition are done so in a way to emphasise the implicit nature of the Jewish decalogue, namely the first commandment:



"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them." (Exodus 20:2-5; Deuteronomy 5:6-9)


Which can be summarised to (it is usually written this way in catechesis):


"I am the LORD your God; You shall have no other gods before me."


This is only a summarisation and not an omission; the meaning of the commandment is implicit as we know full well that it also addresses the issue of idol worship and the use of graven images.


What's also important to note is how the first commandment is explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church; canon law (reference: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c1a1.htm).


The misconception is that the Catholic Church "skims over" the clause regarding idolatry, but it couldn't be more the contrary. The Catholic Church explains in full what idolatry is, how it can manifest, and why we should avoid it:


2112 The first commandment condemns polytheism. It requires man neither to believe in, nor to venerate, other divinities than the one true God. Scripture constantly recalls this rejection of "idols, [of] silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see." These empty idols make their worshippers empty: "Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them." God, however, is the "living God" who gives life and intervenes in history.


2113 Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, "You cannot serve God and mammon." Many martyrs died for not adoring "the Beast" refusing even to simulate such worship. Idolatry rejects the unique Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God.


2114 Human life finds its unity in the adoration of the one God. The commandment to worship the Lord alone integrates man and saves him from an endless disintegration. Idolatry is a perversion of man's innate religious sense. An idolater is someone who "transfers his indestructible notion of God to anything other than God."


Catholics do not commit the sin of idolatry when they use statues and icons in their prayer, worship, or meditations. We do not worship these statues and icons, nor do we worship Mary or the saints in place of God, and nor do we make any attempt to deify (to make divine) Mary and the communion of saints; to do so would be idolatry. All praise and worship goes to Christ our Lord God and Saviour, plain and simple!

"Graven images" explained in the Catechism:


2129 The divine injunction included the prohibition of every representation of God by the hand of man. Deuteronomy explains: "Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a graven image for yourselves, in the form of any figure. . . . " It is the absolutely transcendent God who revealed himself to Israel. "He is the all," but at the same time "he is greater than all his works." He is "the author of beauty."


2130Nevertheless, already in the Old Testament, God ordained or permitted the making of images that pointed symbolically toward salvation by the incarnate Word: so it was with the bronze serpent, the ark of the covenant, and the cherubim.


2131 Basing itself on the mystery of the incarnate Word, the seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea (787) justified against the iconoclasts the veneration of icons - of Christ, but also of the Mother of God, the angels, and all the saints. By becoming incarnate, the Son of God introduced a new "economy" of images.


2132 The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, "the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype," and "whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it." The honor paid to sacred images is a "respectful veneration," not the adoration due to God alone:


Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.


* * * * *

Get your friend to read the following verses of scripture and ask him/her if idolatry is being committed here:


Exodus 25 (God instructs Moses to construct the Ark of the Covenant)
Numbers 21:8 (God instructs Moses to create a bronze snake)
1 Kings 6 (Solomon builds the temple)


If your friend answers "Yes", then ask him/her why would God instruct us to "cast ye not a graven image" for the instruction only to be ignored later?


If your friend answers "No", then ask him/her why it isn't and what makes it wrong for Catholics to do as Moses and Solomon did. Cite the paragraphs on idolatry and graven images (above) for clarity/emphasis.

* * * * *
Further Reading
If you'd like to learn more about why Catholics use statues, icons and images in their prayer and liturgy, and why Catholics pray to Mary and the saints, then I highly recommend the following informational websites:

http://www.davidmacd.com/catholic/statues_in_church.htm
http://www.davidmacd.com/catholic/mary_in_the_bible.htm
http://www.davidmacd.com/catholic/saints.htm
http://www.catholic.com//library/Do_Catholics_Worship_Statues.asp
http://www.catholic.com/library/Saint_Worship.asp
http://www.catholic.com/library/Praying_to_the_Saints.asp

God bless.


-Stephen

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A free gift, but I can only give it to one person...

I was at a conference on Thursday and Friday, and during it I took the opportunity to purchase some listening materials produced by Lighthouse Catholic Media. As a reward for logging on to their website and leaving some feedback, I was given a digital copy of a scriptural concordance (A4 size, landscape pdf file) for Catholic teaching, doctrine, and sacraments. Anyway, since I completed two reviews, I was awarded a copy of the concordance for each review, and I'm going to give away the second copy I received to the first person that contacts me via email! What you have to promise me, however, is that you will not copy it and distribute liberally (copyright issues and all).

Anyway, you can email me here. Just put in the subject line "I want that Catholic Scriptural Concordance!"

Peace.


-Stephen